SYRIAN PITA BREAD
Hanna learned to make these airy pitas from her Syrian grandmother, and she still insists on baking them from scratch when serving shwarma. "It isn’t that hard to make your own, and the flavor and texture are far superior to the flaccid, sweet kind you find in most grocery stores," she says. Eat the first ones out of the oven slathered with butter, the way Hanna did as a kid.
3/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 envelopes (3 3/8 teaspoons) active dry yeast
6 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups warm milk
Extra-virgin olive oil, for the bowl
Set a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500°. In a bowl, combine the water and yeast and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
In a food processor, pulse the flour with the salt. With the machine on, pour in the yeast mixture and then the warm milk and process until the dough forms a ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it a few times. Form the dough into a ball. Lightly oil a bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and turn to coat; cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Punch down the dough and cut it in half. Cut each half into 8 pieces and roll them into balls, then flatten into 6-inch rounds. Arrange the rounds on the work surface or on floured baking sheets; cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until puffy, 25 minutes.
Using a lightly floured pizza peel, slide 4 of the rounds onto the hot pizza stone at a time and bake for about 5 minutes, until the pitas puff up. Serve hot or wrap in foil to keep warm.
The flattened, unbaked pita rounds can be frozen for up to 1 month. Let thaw
completely, then let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking.
Recipe by Chris Hanna